Sources and causes of stress

In everyday life, we face pressures from many sources. Stress can be defined as an external pressure that exceeds our resources to cope with it. "It can also be a physical and psychological response to events perceived as a threat to one’s sense of well-being," say ​psychiatrists from the Department of Psychiatry at Singapore General Hospital, a member of the SingHealth​ group.

Good stress can bring out the best in you

Not all stress is harmful. In fact, it can be desirable, and even essential, to have some amount of stress in life. Research has shown that, within certain limits, an individual’s performance improves with an increased level of stress.

For example, an athlete is able to run faster under the stress of competition. A student studying for examinations is able to think quicker and stay alert because of the stress of impending examinations. Stress can bring out the best in us. Like a violin string that needs to be tuned to a certain tension in order to produce a beautiful sound, we can stretch our potential to perform at our optimum. However, if the string is stretched too tightly, it will snap. If it is too loose, it may not produce any sound or produce sound of poor quality.

Similarly, if we are not under any stress, we may not achieve our fullest potential, or our performance will be lackluster. If we are under too much stress our performance can suffer. Hence we need an optimum level of stress to bring out the best in us.

See next page for predictable and unpredictable sources of ​stress​.

Ref: ​M19